By day, orthodontist Paul Duryea is a hero who brightens kids' smiles by fixing their teeth. But, on Halloween night, those adorable smiles are replaced by grimacing screams of terror as kids make their way through Duryea's haunted front yard.
This Halloween will be the 21st year that Duryea has transformed the entrance to his Palm Harbor house into a 3,000-square-foot haunted yard.
"I just started out putting out pumpkins when our kids were very young, and it just grew into what you see today. It's got a life of it's own," he said.
The haunted yard is a passionate hobby for Duryea. He often goes to Transworld's Annual Halloween & Attractions Show in St. Louis to get ideas, and maybe even buy a few things.
The attractions at Duryea's haunted yard are first-rate, the type you'd see at a theme park.
"I've had people say it's the Disney of Palm Harbor," said Duryea.
"I've been doing it long enough now that I know a lot of the people who are the pros in the business that actually build for Six Flags and places like that. Many of the things that you see, I built myself."
The haunted yard is filled with lots of creepy things that surprise and scare. A fountain hurls insults when you walk by. Hidden sensors detect body heat, setting scary animated characters into motion. A smoke machine oozes a swamp scent. Videos play murderous scenes. There's a man in an electric chair in the garage, and so much more you'll just have to see to believe. It's all quite frightening.
"I love it. It's a lot of fun," said Duryea, who recalled an incident at haunted yard he built at a previous residence that scared a little kid so much, she took off running.
"I have an electric chair that I built. I had it in the garage and I had a little girl come in with a bag of candy and she was watching and standing there. The electric chair was on a time-delay system, and all of the sudden it goes off, and she drops the bag of candy and ran out of the driveway. The bag of candy sat there all night. Nobody moved it."
Duryea's turned the Halloween tradition into a family affair with his grown son and wife lending a hand.
"I have a very specific job," said Nan, his spouse of 37 years. "I help with the fencing."
Nan says she likes it because it brings the community together. "It becomes a fun hangout."
The haunted yard is open to the public on Halloween and the Saturday before.
"Come and see what I do," he said.
Paul Duryea's Haunted Yard By the Numbers
- 80 pounds: amount of candy that is usually handed out at the haunted yard on Halloween night.
- 300-400: the number of kids who usually visit on Halloween.
- 2 Hours: length of time it takes to turn on all the lights, smoke machines, DVDs and other electronic equipment used in the display.
- 600 Sq. Ft: the size of the storage unit where the haunted yard stuff is kept during the year.
- 2: The number of trucks it takes to deliver the haunted yard stuff from the storage unit to the Duryea's home.
- 1 Month: length of time it takes to set up the haunted yard.
What to Know if You Go
- Paul Duryea's haunted yard is located at 1608 Canapy Oaks Blvd. in Palm Harbor.
- It will be open to the public from 7-11 p.m. on Saturday night and Halloween.
- Admission is free, but each year the Duryeas accept donations to benefit a local charity. This year, the charity is Suncoast Hospice.